Mike Vickers' Blog

March 18, 2019

DUP, Brexit and The Good Friday Agreement

Filed under: Good Friday Agreement, Ireland, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 11:58 am

Following on from my Blog: Derry Girls, Bloody Sunday and the Border

I consider it a deplorable situation where a party in Northern Ireland, the DUP, is determining whether the whole UK is leaving or remining in the EU. The DUP, although the major party in Northern Ireland, JUST, has no formal political power in that country as the Northern Ireland Parliament has not met for 2 years over an issue that was at least in part due to the First Minister’s (Arlene Foster) dealings on electricity.

I state straight away that I feel that the UK leaving the EU is a disaster and am biased. During the last 50 years, Europe has been war free; not being an historian I don’t know when this occurred before, but I suspect it is quite long ago.

Oddly, some 20 years ago, I was on a plane back from Germany and I spent the whole fight defending Ian Paisley and the feeling that the protectants in Northern Ireland felt uncomfortable with the dominant catholic population in Southern Ireland next door.

So, I was elated when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, and I can still remember the photo of the Chuckle Brothers: Ian Paisley (DUP) and Martin McGuiness (Sinn Fein), (see in the article below)

Not only is the DUP now threatening the UK that they may only support Theresa May’s EU Deal if they are doled out more cash, they are, in practice at least, threatening the Good Friday Agreement itself.

For a more substantive argument than mine on the DUP’s intransigence see Patrick Cockburn’s article in today’s Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/brexit-latest-northern-ireland-backstop-vote-a8822836.html

Incidentally while Tony Blair has been much criticized since leaving office, he did, as Cockburn’s article states. reach agreement with Southern Irelands Prime Minister on the Good Friday Agreement.

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March 5, 2019

Frank Field – Independent Labour MP for Birkenhead

Filed under: Birkenhead, Brexit, Frank Field, Left Politics, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:04 pm

I was born in Birkenhead, well the posh part to the south, Bebington, not that that was that posh as it was just half a mile from Port Sunlight, the soap factory of Lever Brothers where just before going to Liverpool University I did a vac job for 2 months.

But back to Birkenhead, Field was after my time; after graduating I headed south wanting to go to Singapore with the IGY. No such luck, I joined the Scientific Civil Service near Windsor and moved into computing and spent my working life in many aspects of the subject. I am not complaining, computing was new and exciting in those days.

But again, back to Birkenhead, I can still remember cycling around Birkenhead Docks; there were docks in Birkenhead then for cargo ships that overflowed from Liverpool on the opposite side of the Mersey. The docks were exciting places to cycle around with ships from all over the world. But many’s the time I got my front tyre stuck in the embedded dockside railway lines and fell off.

It also built ships at Cammell Laird’s; I watched the launch of the aircraft carrier Ark Royal

You can get an overview of Birkenhead at wiki

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birkenhead.

Everyone worked in Liverpool, a ferry boat away, or you could risk your life cycling through the Mersey Tunnel; fine going down to the middle but hell cycling up the other side with lorries trying to inch past you; I did it for a year but after that got the ferry and the tram. I did well predate the Beetles

All that’s by the way, although I have seldom been back I still feel an attachment to Birkenhead and I am proud of Frank Field and independent Labour soul who chairs the the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

He is quoted “In December 2017, during a debate on Universal Credit, Field described the impact that Universal Credit changes had had on his constituents. His observations moved Work and Pensions Select Committee member Heidi Allen to tears”.

He is an avid supporter of Climate Protection and features the protection of rain forests; all excellent, but I cannot agree with his attitude to Brexit even though I can see where he is coming from.

But you might like a piece in today’s “I” on “Ending benefits freeze to ease poverty”.

You may admire a new sculpture in Birkenhead Part of the exhausted solder in remembrance of WW1.

February 13, 2019

Babel – a piece by the Venezuelan Pianist and Composer Gabriela Montero

Filed under: Music, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 9:29 pm

 Babel

 We have just been to a concert given by the Scottish string orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble.

The programme was called Babel after a new composition by Gabriela Montero and focused on the interplay between Music and Politics.  The music covered the modern period from Shostakovich, Glass, Vasks, and finished with Messiaen ‘Quartet for the End of Time’.  Messiaen wrote it while a prisoner in a German war camp and played it at a camp ‘concert’; the piece this evening was transcribed just for violin and piano; the violin, played by Jonathan Morton leader, sang out piercingly above the piano, played by Montero and you could hear the proverbial pin drop.  Written I understand for cello, violin, piano and clarinet certainly didn’t suffer for the transcription.

The Shostakovich was his Chamber Symphony written after the death of Stalin and a lot freer because of it ;  while the Philip Glass featured two violins first in dissonance but finishing in harmony but backed by the full strings. The Vasks in contrast brought in the Environment and very much the personal.

 But the centre piece was written and played by Gabriela Montero called ‘Babel’ and the music centred around political unrest in Venezuela.  Montero is Venezuelan and present-day Venezuela hurts her, and this piece of music was written before the latest turbulent event. The piece is for piano with Montero playing piano and for strings, the Scottish Ensemble being a string orchestra made the most of it; hurt mixed with laughter.

The Scottish Ensemble wins hands down of all the orchestras we go to.  They act as one and clearly enjoy playing together, as they did this evening.  A lot of this night’s music was painful, the Messiaen in particular, while the Vasks piece had a serenity and the Glass had a rhythm and repetition that mirrors the modern world.   We were asked to hold off clapping till the end but when the end came the applause was overwhelming.  This was enhanced by Gabriela Montero pulling out of dress a Venezuelan Flag and bowing; the audience was cheered.

 Gabriela Montero talking on her new piece if you would like at

 https://scottishensemble.co.uk/magazine/venezuelan-pianist-gabriela-montero-discusses-her-new-piece-babel/

 

November 12, 2018

Armistice Day and Brexit

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, History in the making, In Our Time, War — derryvickers @ 8:07 am

I feel I had to say something on this Armistice Day.

I went to no church service, I only looked at the pictures on the web, but I did stand two minutes quietly alone at 11am.

Armistice dictates that at least we must be part of the Common Market, and I believe we should provide open access to Europeans to this country.

I find it totally ironic that on the Day we remember the horrific First World War that we, at the same time, struggle to leave the Europeans in the lurch; at this moment in time they need us as much as we need them. It was Churchill after the Second World War who enunciated the need for a Unite Europe; not just Magnanimity in Victory but a necessity in the hope that we don’t enter into a third world war.

I am not a Tory, but I have now a great deal of sympathy for Theresa May. She was given an excruciating hand by Cameron; yes, she needn’t have picked it up but in retrospect there was no one else. I can only hope that May can create something out of the ashes. Yes, a second vote would be best, but I worry that the people would be given anything coherent to choose between.

October 7, 2018

The Cumnock Tryst.

Filed under: Music, Poetry, War, World Class — derryvickers @ 8:40 pm

 Cumnock is not an exciting place, it used to be the central town of the Ayrshire Coal Field; now no more.  However, it’s the birthplace of Sir James MacMillan and what a difference he has brought to the Town.  He created the Cumnock Tryst  five years ago and since then the Tryst opens up the Town to music and the elite come to Cumnock (rather than vice versa).  Not only the music goers but this year the Tryst was graced by Ian Bostridge.

We went to just two pieces (6 in all); the second first; a musical promenade through the rooms of Dumfries House.  The House was saved and restored with the support of Prince Charles and Alex Salmond with Scottish Government Money. The Promenade started with Nikita Naumov on double base – a young Russian who plays with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and looked delighted at his reception today.  Then came the primary school bell ringers supported by Sirocco Wind and local singers.  The bell ringers chimed to old tunes and new from MacMillan; you may think this childish, but MacMillan takes it very seriously and it’s great that he uses his talents to bring forth kids to succeed him and in doing so becomes one source of dispelling the previous desperate state of the town and its surroundings.  The Promenade finished with five modern French pieces for woodwind from the Sirocco Wind – all young and should go far.

But the truly outstand piece was last night was an oratorio by MacMillan that will be played later this month by London Symphony Orchestra to mark the Armistice of WW1.  But that performance is unlikely to be anywhere near as exciting as last night’s.  The Oratorio text came from a WW1 Scottish poet, Charles Hamilton Sorley.  Sorley like so many other poets only lasted just 6 months into the battlefield; the text is entitled ‘All the Hills and Vales Along’.  The players were: Ian Bostridge the lead tenor, the Cumnock Tryst Festival Chorus, the Edinburgh Quarter (a group of four, two of whom regularly play with the Hebrides Ensemble), Naumov on double bass and the Sirocco Wind but the main orchestra came from the Dalmellington Band (Brass);  the mines may have closed but the Band plays on;  and how MacMillan had the Band at the core of his oratorio;  it shatters the desire of the Scottish Government to save money by deleting music education from school curricula.  There was a standing ovation and quite rightly so.

 

September 24, 2018

Brexit is an obscenity.

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Personal, War — derryvickers @ 9:36 pm

We may have fought in Europe for centuries .

But

We are part of Europe.

We were born out of Greece.

Watch Andrew Graham-Dixon and the Art of Germany in ‘The Shadow of Hitler’.

And in particular the work of Joseph Beuys.

And why we must avoid war in Europe , if possible, in the future.

Brexit underpins this objective.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00wlrzx/art-of-germany-3-in-the-shadow-of-hitler

Brexit is an obscenity.

 

December 14, 2016

Aleppo – an abject failure of the West

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 2:23 pm

It would have been quite possible to provide food and medicine to Aleppo using gps guided-parachutes. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/08/push-for-east-aleppo-aid-drops-using-gps-guided-parachutes

Even on Saturday Corbyn stood stony faced and silent why Peter Tarchell demonstrated for air drops. One expects such response from the Tories but not from Labour.

https://leftfootforward.org/2016/12/peter-tatchell-aleppo-is-todays-guernica-where-is-labour/

But I can remember the Berlin Air lift, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade, and I note a comment in Wiki as to why the Soviets did not interfere: ‘ The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict’. It is likely to have been the case with Aleppo,

Of course it was far too late on Saturday but this is likely to be a further nail in Labour’s coffin.  It could certainly be the most serious indictment of Obama’s term of Office.

November 13, 2016

Trump as Machiavelli’s Prince

Filed under: A Point of View BBC Radio4, Europe, History in the making, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 1:00 pm

From an article by Martin Kettle in Friday’s Guardian:

He is an anti-liberal president for post-liberal times. He embodies extreme hostility to social liberalism – in the form, to take a few examples, of his contempt for ethnic minorities, his hatred for Muslims, his indifference to due process, his dismissal of rights, his willingness to use torture, his mocking of the disabled, his dismissal of political correctness, and above all, perhaps, his attitude to women. He is not alone in these attitudes in his party. Indeed, in some respects, Trump is the culmination of the deep-rooted hatred for social liberalism,’

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/donald-trump-voters-liberal-order

Yes of course, Kettle is talking about Trump but could Kettle be equally talking about the Leader of ISIS.  I first thought, Yes; but on second thoughts No.
The Leader of ISIS, I would suspect, believes he is right: the West has polluted the world and its effects must be eradicated. 

Trump has no such high ideals for the USA; other than his self-aggrandisement: in this respect he is Machiavelli’s Prince.

From Wiki

‘The descriptions within The Prince have the general theme of accepting that the aims of princes—such as glory and survival—can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends:….He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation’

Trump is no fool; he worked out that by speaking as he did he would appeal to enough floating voters to become President. This he has achieved.

But like the Prince he needs to hold on and that means winning another term.   In recent times there have been only two One Term Presidents: Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush and Trump doesn’t want to be a third; after all he has been trying long enough to become President. What’s going to stop Trump doing another Term and already he has started to change his tone . Using the same obnoxious techniques won’t work a second time; he needs to do something different and he has already decided that he needs to tap into broader group of voters; he has chosen that he needs to embrace the centre. He cosies up to Obama– they had ‘in Trump’s words’ a great meeting, lasting over an hour while only a ¼ hour was planned (thought why Obama puts up with Trump longer than the minimal ¼ hour is unclear – perhaps in the hope that ObamaCare will survive). Trump’s new song is that ObamaCare may not be that bad after all and putting Hilary in prison is not now top priority. Washington will be ‘a great lot of folks’ now they ‘understand’ Trump; and NATO may just be worth spending on.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/12/donald-trump-appears-to-soften-stance-on-range-of-pledges.

Of course Trump may do it ‘his way’ and fail miserably; but he’s probably astute enough to know at Presidential level you have to get more than 50% right and to achieve this level you do need a few right thinking people around you.

But at the next Presidential election there will be Elizabeth Warren to contend with; and the American women who voted for Trump may come to realise that then is the time to blow ‘the Glass Roof’.

PS I commend readers to listen to Roger Scruton on ‘A Point of View’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081tkmc#play

September 8, 2016

Putting the Camera aside in the Mediterranean

Filed under: Europe, In Our Time, Politics, Travel, War — derryvickers @ 8:46 am

How’s this for a business model? The smugglers of Libya cram as many people as possible aboard ramshackle dinghies and send them off across the Mediterranean. There’s virtually no chance that the boats will make the 300-mile journey to Europe; they will either sink, drowning all on board, or be intercepted by a rescue ship or naval vessel on patrol. But the outcome makes little difference to the smugglers, who are part of a more than $5 billion industry; either way, they get paid, and new passengers keep coming.

This is the very definition of a death-defying journey, which TIME correspondent Aryn Baker and photographer Lynsey Addario set out to tell for this issue and an ongoing multimedia project. Now that the refugee route from Turkey to Greece has all but closed down, more and more migrants are braving the far more dangerous Libya-to-Italy corridor. Aryn and Lynsey embedded with a rescue team from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières on the MV Aquarius. It took their 77-metre., steel-clad, multi-engine surveying vessel 36 hours to reach Sicily from Libya. “The thought that these tiny, 40-horsepower-engine [migrant] boats, loaded with one tank of fuel, could make it anywhere would be laughable but for the number of lives at stake,” Aryn says, and indeed the death toll on the route has risen sharply this year, to 2,726 people.

These refugees came not just from the nightmare war zones of Syria and Sudan but from all across Africa. As dangerous as the sea journey is, Lynsey observes, “This is the least harrowing of their months- and years-long journey to date. They have been tortured, bound, gang-raped, trafficked, humiliated, starved and thrust into the open seas, and we come upon them often as the first ally since they left home.” At one point after intercepting a sinking trawler, there were 551 people aboard the Aquarius; Aryn handed out emergency rations, while Lynsey deployed her rudimentary Arabic to help calm frightened passengers.

“After almost two decades of covering people at their most vulnerable, I am often asked when is the appropriate time to put my cameras down and intervene in any given situation,” Lynsey says. Normally, her response is that she is not a doctor, and her mission is to tell the story to the larger world. But as the rescuers scrambled to pull some 400 people from one sinking boat, babies, toddlers and children were thrust from the crowd, one after another, passed along a chain of rescue workers. “When I pulled my camera away from my face, I realized everyone’s hands were full but mine,” Lynsey says, “and there was a startled boy at my feet–no more than 3 years old. The boat was jostling to the left and right, the sea splashing around us, and I thought of my son. I instinctively picked up the boy, letting my cameras dangle at my side, and undoubtedly missed some of the most important images of the day. But the situation was tense and precarious, and I knew what I needed to do then and there.”

This was Lynsey’s fourth journey on a search-and-rescue boat. She knows already it won’t be her last.

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR: TIME Magazine September 12, 2016

PS If this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes

July 4, 2016

The Land of Lost Content

Filed under: Education, Personal, Poetry, Sustainability, War — derryvickers @ 7:44 pm

 

As a child I lived in Congleton in East Cheshire

I was able to walk and cycle freely wherever I liked.  I and my friend would be out for hours and my parents never worried.

A favourite place was up to Mow Cop.

Mow Cop

The Folly of Lost Content

though I suspect the way up has changed a lot since then.

I fear that kids can’t do that anymore.  It’s a great pity (and nothing to do with the EU)

Why do I remember this now – its because a book has just been released on A E Housman.

Housman composed a slim book of poems ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

The book was reputed to be carried by solders on the Front in WW1 and I can understand why.

However Housman also wrote the verse:

The Land of Lost Content

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman

Malvern Hills

Malvern Hills like Shropshire and the Long Mynd

 

 

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